In September 2000, when the cameras began rolling on Terry Gilliam
's adaptation of Don Quixote, the production already had a chequered past including ten years of development, a series of producers and two previous attempts to start the film. Joining the Madrid-based production team eight weeks before the shoot, Lost In La Mancha directors Keith Fulton
and Louis Pepe
witness the successes as well as the failures. Problems are quick to emerge: the multilingual crew struggles to communicate detailed ideas; actors remain absent as they run over schedule on other projects; and everything from untrained horses to a sound stage -- that isn't sound-proof -- threatens the film. But through it all, there is the palpable, mounting excitement that Gilliam's ideas will finally come to fruition: the crew watch test footage of marauding giants; puppeteers rehearse a troop of life-size marionettes; Gilliam and Johnny Depp
brainstorm over the script. By the time Jean Rochefort
straps on his Quixote armour, success, though far off, seems almost possible. Not long into production disaster strikes: flash floods destroy sets and damage camera equipment; the lead actor falls seriously ill; and on the sixth day production is brought to its knees. Uniquely, after Quixote’s cameras have stopped rolling, the documentary continues to record events as they unfold. In the best tradition of documentary filmmaking, Lost In La Mancha captures all the drama of this story through 'fly-on-the-wall' vérité footage and on-the-spot interviews. Gilliam's plans for the non-existent film come alive in animations of his storyboards, narrated and voiced by co-writer Tony Grisoni and Gilliam himself. And with the camera tests of the leading actors and the rushes from the only six days of photography, Lost In La Mancha offers a tantalizing glimpse of the cinematic spectacle that might have been.